Perhaps it is because I just finished reading this book by this man, which on top of making me cry every time I sat down to read (and I'm talking about the audible, gasping, non-attractive kind of crying here), made me think a great deal about story and what it is that makes something epic and beautiful. Perhaps it is because I am finally entering a relatively calm stage of this early post-collegiate-20-something-with-a-full-time-job life. Or perhaps it is because living alone affords me an opportunity to be more introspective and thoughtful.
Whatever the reason, I have been thinking lately about life in general. When people ask me for an update on my life, I tell them I am learning about balance. And frankly, this is about all I can handle right now, this project of learning how to safely juggle the flaming clubs of a full-time work week, sleep, exercise, preparing food, growing my relationships with those I care for, engaging in my community, keeping my sinks and floors clean and maintaining my education and awareness of current events (many thanks to NPR and the BBC).
I've also been thinking about how important it has become to me to have what I consider a meaningful career, though I get stuck on this one, because I realize that it is an incredible privilege to be that picky. Many do not have the education or social positioning to be choosy about a job, even in a good economy. And it doesn't seem right or fair that people have to devote 40+ hours a week to work that they don't find meaningful in order to keep the heat on and put the food in the refrigerator to enable them to live another day to wake and return to that job and make the most and wait for the weekend.
But I do think that we are called to steward well whatever resources we have been given, and this pursuit of vocational calling remains important to me. At present, I have a job I enjoy relatively well, and my organization pursues a mission that has become very important to me. But my work doesn't bring any excess of joy when I start my commute to the office in the morning, clutching my coffee in my mittened hand. And as much as I can wrap my mind and heart around the importance of what we do, it doesn't (routinely) make me choke back tears upon sight of a photograph or a few words of a story. Now, mind you, I am VERY thankful for my job. And I'm not leaving too soon. But I'm also not going to stop seeking a career more directly focused on the things that make my blood run (thanks, KP).
So as I think about life and balance and vocation and with my peers ask the same questions over and over again and become entranced by the lives that people older than I have created throughout their years, I come to this: as we go through our days, making decisions and weaving in and out of one another's stories, we build our lives. And as I stand here in this season, with my plans and dreams still in flux, I am truly beginning to build a life.
This feels like a larger version of my current project of settling into this new home... As I stock my shelves with spices and flours and sugars, so also I piece together the elements of my life, finding how to best fit everything that a healthy and faithful and full life necessitates. As I arrange and rearrange the books on my shelves, so also I made decisions about the shape of my life.
I was thinking about this when I went to get my hair cut on Saturday morning down at my hairdresser's shop/home down on Division, which is filled with the most eclectic and lovely vintage clothing and handmade treasures. As she cut my hair, I thought about how my friend is part of that store, part of why I go there again and again and why I didn't mind getting up early on a Saturday morning to fit an appointment into her busy schedule. The next customer clearly felt the same, bringing baked goods from a local bakery that she shared with both of us, and we talked and laughed and the sun streamed through the windows and the stranger with hair dye on her roots didn't care that I saw the hair dye on her roots. I lingered in the middle of my friend's beautiful life, a life that didn't come easily but rather on the heels of a realization that she didn't find an earlier version of her life fulfilling. So she built a more beautiful story, from vintage boots and silver earrings and carefully swept floors and honesty and laughter.
My friend Nicole has a beautiful life as well. She knows what she is called to, at least in part, and so she lives with confidence. She is a mother and an artist, and she speaks truth all over my life. When I see her sweep into a room with strength and grace and humility, I know I am okay, and when we part, I remember that the world is beautiful and that I have a story to live, too, even if I am not sure of all its elements.
I searched for a tablecloth for the little square table in my front room until I found the perfect one at a nearby antique store: it is a cream colored square of exactly the right size, with brightly colored flowers stitched into a lovely and graceful pattern, the bumpy knobs of thread popping their rounded heads out of the soft fabric. And so also I hang pictures and twinkle lights and silver stars on the walls of my life; I stack my brightly colored bowls and buy ingredients for banana bread and big pots of soup.
And slowly I build a life.